Leukemia patient's negligence case is remanded to civil district court

By Charmaine Little | Nov 6, 2018

Judge Barry W. Ashe of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana granted a man’s motion to remand a toxic tort case on Oct. 17.

The court agreed with Kenneth Matte that the case, which included Matte suing Mobil Exploration and Producing North America Inc. and United States Steel Corp. for allegedly contributing to his chronic condition of meylomonocystic leukemia (CMML), should be remanded to the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans in the State of Louisiana. 

Matte accused Mobil Exploration of having work conditions that exposed him to benzene and products that contained benzene (i.e. paint thinners, crude oil, paints, and penetrators), which caused him to develop CMML. He said this occurred when he worked as a seaman for a vessel owned by The Superior Oil Co., which is a predecessor-in-interest of Mobil Exploration.

Matte originally sued for negligence under the Jones Act, unseaworthiness and maintenance and cure via the general maritime law in the civil district court. He also said U.S. Steel manufactured and distributed Radiator Specialty, which included dangerous levels of benzene. He said in his petition that he “disavows any cause of action for acts, omissions, and/or damages that occurred on the Outer Continental Shelf of the United States; thus, removal of this action to the United States district court would be improper.”

While U.S. Steel removed the case to the current court challenging subject-matter jurisdiction as it relates to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) and stating that this court has supplemental jurisdiction over Matte’s claims against each of the defendants listed, the court sided with Matte. Even though the court determined U.S. Steel removed the case in a timely fashion, it said the petition wasn’t removable since it included a claimed denial of OCSLA allegations.

The court added U.S. Steel has failed to give any proof that the court would be able to determine if Matte would or would not have gotten CMML if it weren’t for the three months he worked on the OCS, irrespective to the seven years he was exposed to benzene and products that contained benzene. Considering this, it granted Matte’s motion.

Still, Matte wasn’t completely victorious as the court also decided he wasn’t owed attorney’s fees and costs.

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